Posted: Mar 20, 2011 3:18 PM
BATON ROUGE- Interim Baton Rouge Police Chief Charles Mondrick is asking city leaders for $3 million to train 32 new cadets because his law enforcement agency faces a significant officer shortage.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said he'll have to wait several months to see if money will be available.
The Advocate reports the officer shortage is expected to reach 81 by the end of the year. The police department's budget has risen 31 percent since 2006, but officials say the agency's ability to fill officer openings has been hampered by rising retirement costs.
Mondrick said the department's contribution to the employee retirement system was 11 percent of salaries, or $3.7 million, in 2009. Beginning last July, the expense jumped to 25 percent, or $9.6 million. The contribution is expected to rise to 28 percent in July, the beginning of the state's fiscal year. He says those costs have eaten up budget increases the department received in recent years.
The increase, mandated by the Municipal Police Employees'
Retirement System, comes from a combination of lost value from the stock market downturn and officers living longer, according to the newspaper.
"Longer life translates into longer pension payment periods and consequently higher contributions," actuary Charles Hall said in a letter to the retirement system board last March.
"That's a massive increase in money that someone has to come up with that we can't put into law enforcement purposes at all," he said. "And, like most government agencies, 90 percent of our total budget goes into employee contributions like salaries, insurance and benefits."
Mondrick said the police department currently has 641 sworn officers, but has a city-parish allotment of 698.
Mondrick said he expects to lose 30 officers in 2012 and 45 in 2013, based on expected retirements and the average number of resignations and deaths the department experiences each year.
"We could always do more with more officers," he said. "But our main concern right now is to maintain at least the level of officers we're at right now."
He said at least one full academy is needed per year to maintain current staffing levels, adding that two per year would be optimal.
"We need 32 (officers) right now, and as soon as we get through with that (academy), we need another 32 starting up because of the people we're losing," Mondrick said.
He said it takes 22 weeks to train police officers.
Holden said he might be able to provide more money to the police department if sales tax revenues continue rising for the rest of the year. He said he'll have to wait about six months to be sure.
"It concerns me, without a doubt; we're faced with a number of people retiring," Holden said. "But I have to be realistic. I cannot put this government in a financial position that is going to be bad for the other things we have to do for this city as well."